Christmas Gift Guide for Gamers

Christmas Gift Guide

I would be remiss if I didn’t post an article sharing what I believe are some of the best games to give to family members for Christmas. So with Christmas a week and a half away, today I present my Christmas Gift Guide for gamers and non-gamers!

It’s always a little tough trying to decide what games your friends and family might like. Are they gamers who like strategy? Are they non-gamers that just like to hang out? It’s important to understand who you are buying for and what gaming environment they live in.

I’m breaking my recommendations into 3 categories: Party Games, Family Games, and Gamer Games. Check out the description for each to get a better idea from which category your gifts should come.

Let’s get started with “Party Games.”

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Party Games:

“Party Games” are games played with larger groups of people in a typically social, laid-back atmosphere. They often involve guessing, shouting, and laughing. These types of games also serve to help you learn about people.

Here are some solid games you can check out:

Dixit – In Dixit one player is the storyteller. They will choose a card and make up a story or one-liner about what they see on their card. Then all other players choose a card they think matches that story. The Storyteller’s goal is to get at least one player, but not everyone, to guess the correct card. Points are awarded for the guesses and the next player becomes the storyteller.

The Resistance (and The Resistance – Avalon) – This is a social deduction game. In this game each player is either a Resistance Operative or an Imperial Spy. For three to five rounds, they must depend on each other to carry out missions against the Empire. At the same time, they must try to deduce the other players’ identities and gain their trust. Players attempt missions and either support or sabotage them. Once the Resistance or the Imperials have won three missions, they win the game.

Telestrations – This game is also known in finer circles as, “Eat Poop, You Cat!” It is basically the game “Telephone” but in this case you are drawing the phrase and then the next player writes down what they think the drawing is showing. Then the next player draws that new guess and so on. We played this the other night and one of the pictures ended up with Three Wookiees at a beauty pageant.

Wits and Wagers – In Wits and Wagers players will guess a number for the question currently being asked, like “In what year did the Edmund Fitzgerald sink?” Then all the guesses are revealed and players will bid on the guess or guesses that they think are the closest without going over. Correct answers earn more bidding chips. Wrong guesses lose the bidding chips.

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Family Games:

“Family Games” are games for people who enjoy games but don’t want behemoths that are difficult to learn or take a long time to play. Often these games are accessible, quick to learn, easy to play, and have engaging themes. To me the word “accessible” typically refers to games that have a small decision space. Ticket to Ride, my first recommendation, is a great example of this since there are only three things you can do on your turn.

Here are my recommendations for Family Games:

Ticket to Ride - In Ticket to Ride players are competing to build the best rail network. Each player will have specific routes they need to connect. On your turn you either draw train cards, build connections with train cards, or draw new route cards. Throughout the game you will be building your network and hopefully connecting the cities on your route cards. The player with the most points at the end wins the game.

Sushi Go – Sushi Go is a fast and fun card drafting game where players are trying to score the most points with the cards they have. Each player is dealt a hand of cards. They will choose one card and pass the rest to their neighbor. Once all players have chosen they will then display their card face up. Then with the passed cards that they received they will choose another and display that as well. Each type of card has a different scoring condition. So choose your cards wisely. The player with the most points after three rounds will win.

King of New York – In King of New York players represent monsters trying to earn 20 points or be the last monster standing. Points are earned several ways. On your turn, you roll six dice up to three times, then carry out the actions on those dice. Actions include attacking other players and purchasing special monster abilities. You can also try to become the most Famous Monster in the city.

Camel Up – In Camel Up up to 8 players can participate in the camel race. On your turn you can move a camel, bet on a camel for the round, bet on a camel to win or lose the whole race, or place your track modifier. This game can get pretty chaotic and is good, light fun. I’ve never played where it wasn’t an awesome experience.

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Gamer Games:

“Gamer Games” refers to games that are more strategic and take longer than family games. Often these have more complicated rules than family games. But for that gamer in your family that needs more than Ticket to Ride to quench their gaming appetite, then check out these options:

Five Tribes – This is my game of the year because it is awesome. It uses a “worker displacement” mechanic where players try to unite the five tribes. Your objective is to score points via about 8 different scoring categories. You can also obtain Djinns (Genies) that allow you to do special things. There are a lot of clever moments where players feel rewarded for making good plays. The art is fantastic and the game is fun. I highly recommend it.

Puerto Rico – This is a “classic” role selection game where players are trying to build and develop the island of Puerto Rico. Each round players will choose one role each. When they choose the role they get a bonus ability for that role, then all other players get the option to copy the main ability of the role. Players have to manage resources while building buildings, hiring workers, and shipping goods. It’s a great gamer’s game.

Concordia – This is a sort of a deck building game. Players start with a hand of cards. Each card allows a specific action to be performed. Throughout the game players can build their deck by adding cards they believe to be beneficial. The cards also represent the scoring conditions so it is good to add cards to your deck. Players will also be trying to expand their control over the map by building settlements in different regions. The box cover art is hideous but the game is fantastic!

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – Players will choose the Imperial Forces or the Rebels. These are represented by awesome minis of the ships from the Star Wars series. Each ship will be accompanied by a pilot with unique abilities or skills. Players control the flight of their craft and then one ship at a time they will have a chance to fire on the opposing fleet. This game is a lot of fun and is very thematic. There are also plenty of expansion ships you can waste spend your money on. Very fun game.

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I hope this helped you out. If you have other recommendations, please feel free to share them in the comments. Thanks for reading and I wish you a very blessed Christmas season!

 

Ziggurat: Building the Game

I designed Ziggurat the Thursday evening before Prototspiel-Madison in October. I prototyped it the Friday of Protospiel. It was played four times during Protospiel. And I am finally putting together the pieces to turn it into an awesome game!

So today I want to share a little bit about the game and the basics of how it plays. But first here’s a history lesson:

What is a Ziggurat?

Ziggurats are like the Sumerian equivalent of Egyptian pyramids. They are basically a huge brick structure with several levels. They served as the focal point of worship in those ancient cultures. Often it is believed that a temple was built atop the ziggurats.

And since I’d rather focus on the game rather than the history, here’s the Wikipedia link: Ziggurat

The Game…

The thrust of the game revolves around building the Ziggurat. As the design currently stands you have two options on your turn:

  1. Purchase resources (bricks, laborers, special abilities) from the courtyard marketplace.
  2. Spend bricks and laborers to build the Ziggurat.

One of my design goals is to come up with games that are accessible and easy to teach. Ziggurat is like that. The simplicity of limiting what actions can be taken makes the game accessible for non-gamers.

The region of interest, in terms of adding strategy, is to design compelling and interesting decisions into those two options. For example, when purchasing from the courtyard market, would you be willing to pay a higher price for a better card? Also, when building the Ziggurat, does the location where you are building matter?

These are the sorts of things I’m trying to design into Ziggurat. Let’s take a look at the prototype.

The Prototype…

I had previously obtained some components from The Game Crafter at a prior Protospiel event. It turns out that the components I had worked perfectly for what I wanted to achieve with Ziggurat. Here is a first look at the bare prototype:

Barebones prototype demonstrating the 3D nature of the game.

Bare bones prototype demonstrating the 3D nature of the game.

The Ziggurat is composed of three levels. On each level there are platforms that need to be built. Players will build the platforms by spending the appropriate resource and then placing one of their player cubes onto the platform. Once the first level is completed it will be scored. Then the large square tiles for the second level will be placed on top of it. Here is a look at the Prototype with more details on the tiles and platforms.

The Ramp lists what the scoring conditions are for the current game.

The Ramp lists what the scoring conditions are for the current game.

One thing of great importance in the game are the platforms. Each platform requires 4 cubes. When any given platform is completed, each player who helped build the platform will earn some reward. The rewards available are shown on the corners of the tiles. This is a way to ramp things up in the game and loosen the tightness of the resources. It also incentivizes building, which is the whole idea of the game.

Here’s another picture of Ziggurat at the end of a Protospiel playtest:

Ziggurat Completed! Time for final scoring.

Ziggurat Completed! Time for final scoring.

In the bottom left of the image above you can see the courtyard market. In the current version of the game there are six cards in the market. Players may purchase up to two cards. The card at the end costs zero and the costs ramp up as 1, 1, 2, 3, 4. The image has different costs, which I have since adjusted.

The Latest Prototype…

I’m a sucker for creating decent looking artwork and graphics. I use Inkscape, which I recommend. I mocked up some cards and placed an order with TheGameCrafter.com. Here’s what they look like:

Each card represents a laborer OR the resources on the back.

Each card represents a laborer OR the resources on the back.

With a deck made I decided it was time to upgrade the tiles and platforms as well. So I did. Here’s the final result which shows the current state of the game:

Not too shabby, for a prototype!

Not too shabby, for a prototype!

I have some big plans for the game. I want it to be slightly less singular in terms of your goals so I’ll be adding a few other paths to victory. But I solidly enjoy the game as it is.

Feel free to ask any questions. I’m excited to hear what people think and I’m just as excited about the future of the game. This one feels like Scoville did when I designed that. I think there’s a lot of potential here. Thanks for reading!

Monday Brews 12-8-14

We’re already a week into December and it’s been a good month so far. My family has had a sleepover in the living room in front of the Christmas tree (We have 5, 3, and half year old kids). I’ve played a bunch of new games. I just transferred my Belgian Dubbel from the fermenter to the carboy. It should be ready soon! And as a bonus it has been warm enough to melt most of the snow!

With a few weeks left until Christmas I’m sure a bunch of you are making your lists of board games you’d like to get. If you don’t have any ideas of games to get, or if you are not a gamer and want to know what to get for those awesome family members of yours who enjoy games, then check out these helpful gift guides from the folks at iSlayTheDragon:

Those are nice lists but they are a little restricted. I’m planning on posting my own list this week, so keep your eyes open for that and make sure your non-gamers relatives who need some Christmas ideas for you get a look!

And now, let’s get to the Boards and Barley!

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The Barley:

Image from San Diego Magazine. Rightly displayed with a Christmas Tree since it is a great seasonal beer!

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT:
Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale (2011)

Brewed by Unibroue in Canada and aged three years in my friend Adam’s basement! This was an amazing brew and I am now inspired to purchase and age my own bottles for future enjoyment.

This brew was a Belgian style brew that hit all the right notes. It was excellent. If you haven’t had any Unibroue beer I highly recommend any of them!

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The Boards:

Interesting art that tells nothing about the game.

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT:
Machi Koro

This one has had a lot of hype and coverage. I had heard good things and some mixed reviews. The thing that stuck out from the hype was that people were describing this as a fresh take on The Settlers of Catan. That piqued my interest.

After playing it I can definitely say that it has elements similar to Settlers. The overall gameplay is pretty similar. But rather than having settlements and cities you have cards. The cards you purchase allow you certain abilities based on the dice roll value. So you have to plan what cards you want and then whether or not you want to roll one or two die. I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to playing it again (and doing better).

  • Camel Up
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Kingdom Builder
  • Uno (My 5yo daughter has been really into this lately, except when she loses)
  • Tic-Tac-Toe – Played with my 5yo daughter. She got frustrated that I beat her every time but I was trying to teach her the secrets.
  • NEW: Pairs – I’m amazed that this simple pub game earned $330K on Kickstarter. The art is very nice and I’d play it again with the right crowd.
  • NEW: Evolution – This was better than I expected. I really enjoyed it despite playing really horribly. The mechanics of the game are really clever. I’m looking forward to playing again.
  • NEW: AttrAction – More fun than you should be able to have with magnets. It was actually a pretty fun experience.
  • NEW: Temporum – I could sense the Donald X in this game. It had some really cool things going for it. The downfall is that games can be drastically different depending on the combination of cards that are dealt. I enjoyed it despite that and I’m looking forward to playing it again.
  • NEW: Colt Express – I think this game could be a lot of fun… when you’re not getting shot! There are some really neat programming things going on in this game. Unfortunately my programming led to me being shot 10 times! I lost.

Overall it has been a great couple weeks with all the new games I was able to play. That being said, my gaming group still has over 10 games that are owned but unplayed. Must do more gaming!

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Designer’s Corner:

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had a couple new game designs I’ve been working on and that I was going to blog about them. And you probably noticed I haven’t blogged about them. In fact I’ve been pretty quiet on this site as of late. That’s because life is pretty busy with a full time job and three kids, one of which is a 6 month old.

I will be writing an article for each of my current designs: Ziggurat and Impossible. Those should be coming out this week in addition to the Holiday Gift Guide I plan on writing. I’m setting myself up for failure here, but I’d rather have my hand forced to actually put some content here. I’m looking forward to hearing what you all have to say about Ziggurat and Impossible.

Monday Brews – 11-24-14

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the US and my schedule has me in the office only two days this week! Since I didn’t post a standard Monday Brews last week we’ve got a lot to cover! Let’s start with the Barley…

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The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT:
Sixpoint Global Warmer Imperial Red Ale

I had never had an Imperial Red Ale before. It was quite enjoyable. Sixpoint produces pretty hoppy beers, but I found that the “Red” style complemented the hoppy character quite well.

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The Boards:

Mutiny Card Reverse V1 - 822 - CutBOARDS SPOTLIGHT:
Mutiny

I have a love/hate relationship with Mutiny. I hate it because I’m terrible at lying and you have to be sneaky in this game. I love it because it’s SOOOO good, and just got better!

We tested a new version with new roles for the game. These new roles added a lot to an already terrific game. I’m very excited for the future of Mutiny!

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Normally I also share a “Designer’s Corner” update but there’s too much to discuss here briefly. So I’m planning on having a Game Design Debrief after Thanksgiving. I’m sure you’re looking forward to that!

Monday Brews – Kickstarter Shout Outs

Hi everyone. Welcome back to Boards & Barley! I hope you had a great weekend. On Mondays I normally post about the board games and beer I enjoyed over the past week or two. But today I’m going to do something different.

Why am I changing things up? Well, my budget has precluded me from backing KS projects lately. But there are several projects, designers, and publishers that I would have supported had the budget allowed it. So since I can’t back the projects I decided I can at least promote them a little! So I’m listing four current Kickstarter board game projects that I believe in. I recommend you check these out.

We’ll start with a game from a friend and local game designer Seth Van Orden…

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Stockpile

Do you have what it takes?

Stockpile, by Seth Van Orden and Nauvoo Games, is a stock market game where players have high control over manipulating the market.

In the game players are trying to maximize the market value of the stocks they own. This is done by choosing which cards you want to place face up and which cards you want to place face down. Once all players have placed they will bid over which pile they want. Eventually all players will receive a pile of cards. The cards are now reconciled by manipulating the market or dealing with a negative event.

The ultimate goal is for players to best manage the market in their favor.

This game has three days left on Kickstarter and is sitting at about 90% funding. Go help them out! $39 gets you a copy.

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DragonFlame

Burn, baby, burn!

DragonFlame was my favorite game played at the recent Protospiel-Madison. Designed by Matt Loomis and being published by Minion Games, this game is packed with amazing artwork and fun gameplay.

In DragonFlame you are a dragon and your desire is to burn down the towns! To do so players will have a hand of cards. Then they will take turns placing cards either face up or face down onto one of the castles. Once all cards are played then in turn order each player claims a castle and its cards. This determines the player order for the next round.

Players will score points for burning the villages, which they can do when they receive DragonFlame cards, or for collecting treasures and avoiding knights. After six rounds, the player with the most points wins.

Rob Lundy did the artwork for DragonFlame and it really looks amazing. I’ll be buying this game when it comes out (and my budget allows for it). Go burn some villages!

It has 17 days left and $25 gets you a copy.

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Steampunk Rally

That’s no bored European!

New publisher Roxley Games has their first Kickstarter project up and it looks fantastic!

Steampunk Rally is a race game involving great inventors from Edison and Tesla to Marie Curie and George Washington Carver. These are some of the greatest minds of the past and they figured the best way to find out who is the smartest is to have a race through the Alps. So each of them is set to build the best machine to win the race.

Using card drafting and dice placement players will build their machine and then operate in the hopes of winning the race.

The artwork for this game is astonishing and I would back it for that alone! Go grind some gears and check it out!

Steampunk Rally has 10 days to go. $49 US gets you a copy!

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New Bedford

A Whale of a Game! (Couldn’t help myself)

New Bedford is the game I most regret that I’m unable to back. I played this for the first time a year ago at BGG.Con with Chris from Dice Hate Me Games. It is a truly great and enjoyable game.

Nat Levan is the designer and you can check out his blog here: Oakleaf Games. He has written extensively about his design process for New Bedford.

In the game you are helped to develop the town of New Bedford. You can utilize resources and send ships to see to capture whales, which provide income. This is a worker placement game that is streamlined and efficient. It is really enjoyable to play. So much so that I made my own copy with the PNP files from the Kickstarter page.

Also, they do a great job dealing with what some people consider a controversial topic. I applaud Dice Hate Me for that.

Go grab your harpoon and hit the open seas!

New Bedford has 27 days left and is 50% funded. Grab a copy for $40.

Oakleaf Games

Board Games by Nat Levan

Kevin G Nunn

Mechanisms and Machinations

play without fear

on game design and play

Formal Ferret Games

Gil Hova designs, publishes, and plays board games

Boards and Bees

buzzing about board games

Go Forth And Game

The People Who Make The Games Talking To The People Who Play The Games

Hyperbole Games

Blogging about board games and beer!

Ruby Cow Games

Casual Board Games

stonemaier games

creators of Viticulture: The Strategic Game of Winemaking

Cumbersome

Blogging about board games and beer!

Purple Pawn

Game News Across the Board

GameBugleGameBugle

Blogging about board games and beer!

iSlaytheDragon

Blogging about board games and beer!

Daniel Solis

Blogging about board games and beer!

Board Game Reviews by Josh

Blogging about board games and beer!

Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Blogging about board games and beer!

Inspiration to Publication

News from the Game Lab of the Bamboozle Brothers

inkscape tutorials blog

for all your Inkscape tutorial needs

Theology of Games

Two Geeks, Hundreds of Games, One God.

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